Watching the Amarillo City Council justify keeping our city’s red light cameras operational is really something to behold. Listen to the conversations about “paying out pocket” and extra expenditures and you might think the City Council is made up of a group of five deficit hawks concerned about spending and living within the organization’s means. Take a look at the incumbents’ records, however, and you will see their new (and convenient) concern about the budget is all smoke and mirrors.
During the City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, a discussion was had regarding the future of the red light cameras after the 86th Legislature voted to ditch the devices. The ban allows cities to continue operating their cameras through the end of any existing contracts, but the tickets have essentially become unenforceable as a result of the legislation.
City manager Jared Miller and City staff seemed to aggressively push to keep the cameras operational, citing budget concerns. A comment from Councilwoman Elaine Hays, however, is what truly raised my eyebrows.
“The population in general does not want red light cameras…but that is an important piece of information for our community to know,” Hays said. “We can [exit the contract], but it is going to cost us out of pocket.”
Costs associated with exiting the red light camera contract were not of concern when the City Council voted add cameras to the streets of Amarillo last year by a unanimous vote. This came as several pieces of legislation were promoted just a year before that would have banned the cameras. Governor Greg Abbott would also go on to call for the cameras to be banned just months after Amarillo’s new cameras were approved.
I understand there is no way to see into the future, but it should have been evident to the Amarillo City Council that the cameras were in the cross-hairs when they voted to approve the additions in 2018. Yet, just like with everything the City of Amarillo touches, they did whatever they wanted and now Amarillo residents are left holding the bill for an incompetent and illegal program.
It’s fascinating how at any other moment, in the opinion of this writer, neither senior city staff nor the Amarillo City Council itself have had any commitment to fiscal responsibility. This also falls on the shoulders of Councilmembers like Hays who voted to approve the camera additions. Why is the budget just now a concern?
Remember, the year after taking office, the City Council made sure to find the money to increase the budget for the city manager’s office by almost $200,000. Yet, they don’t want to approve the funding to take down the very cameras that were just outlawed by our state legislature. This should show you that our City Council cares more about approving its desires than about listening to the people of Amarillo.
To our elected officials and City officials: we can see through your fake budget concerns and fake fiscal responsibility. The Legislature has spoken and so have the citizens of this great state. Let’s take the cameras down now.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief